Works of Art
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"From its earliest days the firm had sold scientific instruments and navigational devices, and this continued at irregular intervals. There were also occasional sales of music and musical instruments...." (Hermann, 1981, 16-17). Sotheby's early competitors: Messrs' Hutchins (1785-1798); Greenwood (1784-1806); Thomas Philipe (1798-1814); King and Lochee, King St., Covent Garden (1790-1816); Christie (1777-1816); Vallance and Jones of Dublin (1812-1816; Richardson (1791-1817); Dodd and Jones (1806-1823); R.H. Evans (1812-1831).
early 1730s - Samuel Baker, a bookseller, publisher and stationer, settled at Chaucer's Head, Russell Street, Covent Garden, London; founds what would be the firm of Sotheby & Co.
c.1757 Baker moves into own premises on York Street, Covent Garden.
1774 - George Leigh becomes full partner.
1778 - Samuel Baker dies. His nephew, John Sotheby, becomes partner in firm at age 38 and takes over the administration when George Leigh becomes auctioneer.
1800 - John Sotheby's son, Samuel, joins firm. Name changes to "Leigh, Sotheby, and Son."
1804 - Major altercation between elder two; "Leigh and S. Sotheby" created at 145 The Strand.
1805 - John Sotheby retires.
1809 - John Sotheby dies.
1816 - George Leigh dies.
1818 - "Leigh and S. Sotheby" moves to No. 3 Waterloo Bridge Street (renamed 13 Wellington Street).
1821 - John Wilkinson joins firm.
1827 - Samuel's son, Samuel Leigh Sotheby, previously joined firm and now fully takes over Company.
1828 - Sotheby's publishes A List of the Original Catalogues of the Principal Libraries Which Have Been Sold by Auction...
1842 - Samuel Sotheby dies.
1846 - Sotheby's greatest competitor, R.H. Evans, goes bankrupt; Sotheby's purchases most of that company's remaining goods.
1847 - Edward Grose Hodge is new employee.
late 1850s - Building of new gallery for the display of objects at N. Wellington St., No. 21.
1861 - Samuel Leigh Sotheby dies.
1864 - Edward Grose Hodge becomes partner; name of firm now "Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge," remains so until 1924.
1865 - Fire destroys No. 13 Wellington St.
1895/1910 - Pierpont Morgan is a frequent customer.
1896 - Thomas Hodge joins firm.
1907 - E.G. Hodge dies. Possible partial buy-out of the firm by Hodge's sons fails.
2 Oct. 1909 - Announcement made that Felix Warre and Geoffrey Hobson were to assist Hodge.
1910 - Three contenders to Hodge at Wellington Street, prospective partners: Warre, Hobson, and Montague Barlow.
1911 - Barlow's participation announced 10 January 1911. Hamilton Palace Library Sale. Huth Library Sales (1911-20).
1913 - Decide to return to the picture business.
1916 - Start reconstruction of Bond Street premises.
1917 - Final sale at Wellington Street premises 25 May. "Sotheby's" moves to Bond St.
1918 - Charles F. Bell begins work with the firm to establish forthcoming collection sales.
1920 -Charles des Graz joins Sotheby's.
1921 - A.J.B. Kiddell joins Sotheby's.
1922 - Landmark sale of Egyptian antiquities.
1924 - Tancred Borenius becomes part-time advisor to Sotheby's for paintings (until 1945).
1926 - Tom Lumley joins firm.
1931 - Begin business ventures in Germany; begin buying paintings from Russia.
1933 - Amalgamation of Christie's and Sotheby's proposed in order to impede bankruptcy. Proposal dropped.
1936 - Important sale of Newton's papers.
1937 - Rothschild sale.
1938 - William Randolph Hearst collection of silver sale; Mortimer L. Schiff, book sale; Windworth family, sale of furniture and porcelain.
1940 - Eumorphous sale of Chinese ceramics; Harcourt Johnstone collection sale. Merger of Sotheby's and Christie's proposed once again. Tom Hodge dies Oct.
1940/1945 - Merger of Sotheby's and Christie's instituted.
1948 - Alfred Jowett collection of drawings sale; Sir Bernard Eckstein sale; Landan-Finaly sale. Charles des Graz takes over chairmanship.
1953 - Charles des Graz dies. Increasing international travel from 1953 on.
1954 - Carmen Gronau (née von Wogau) named a director. Farouk (Royal Egyptian collection) sales. December: "Freeing the Dollar Import Restrictions" allows antiques and works of art, among other items, to be added to World Open General License.
1956 - Jakob Goldschmidt sale.
1957 - Weinberg Sale, blockbuster show using closed-circuit TV.
1958 - Westminster Sale (included sale of Rubens' "Adoration of the Magi"). Erwin Sale of 7 modern paintings breaks all previous sale records. Cézanne's "Garçon au Gilet Rouge" goes for £220,000, then the highest price ever paid for a modern painting.
1963 - René Fribourg estate sale. Parke-Bernet's president and chief executive, Leslie Alexander Hyam, commits suicide. Parke-Bernet galleries in serious financial trouble.
1964 - Sotheby's nominates a company called Baker, Leigh and Sotheby to potentially take over Parke-Bernet. By November, all twelve major shareholders in Parke-Bernet have signed the merger contract.
1968 - Branches open in Canada, Paris (8, rue Duras), Melbourne, Beirut, and Florence.
1969 Branches open in Edinburgh, Johannesburg, Zürich, Munich. Times/Sotheby's Index of Art Prices published (publication ran for two years only). Educational/"training" program instituted at London gallery.
1970s - Branches open in Boston, Houston, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Palm Beach, Los Angeles (1971), and Hawaii.
1976 - Sotheby/Parke-Bernet returns to real estate sales.
1977 - Mentmore House (Rothschild) estate sale; von Hirsch collection sale.
1978 - Educational course at Sotheby's Belgravia on Motcomb St. for those interested in European decorative arts of the 19th and 20th centuries.